Conference USA threatens 'legal actions' to planned Marshall, Southern Miss, Old Dominion exits

The ongoing dispute between Conference USA and three of its schools was heightened Tuesday when the league released its football schedule followed immediately by a pledge to "exhaust all necessary legal actions" to ensure outgoing members Marshall, Old Dominion and Southern Miss stick around long enough to participate in it this fall.

On Friday, those three schools announced their intent to terminate their membership with C-USA on June 30 so they can join the Sun Belt. All three, though, were included in the league's 2022 fall schedule, which includes eight conference games and four nonconference games for each of the 14 schools.

Marshall, Old Dominion and Southern Miss each had released similar statements that they first communicated their decisions in December to stop participating in C-USA following the end of the 2021-22 academic year.

Marshall interim athletic director Jeff O'Malley on Tuesday tweeted that the school stands by its statement.

C-USA has issued multiple statements saying the league expects its three departing members to follow conference bylaws and honor their contracts by remaining through the 2022-23 academic year. According to the football schedule, Southern Miss will open its season at home against Liberty on Sept. 3, while ODU will host Virginia Tech and Marshall will host Norfolk State.

"Conference USA intends to conduct the 2022-23 athletic year with the full 14 institution membership intact," the league's board said in a statement. "The C-USA Board of Directors will exhaust all necessary legal actions to ensure all members meet their contractual obligations as defined by and agreed to in the Conference USA Bylaws."

Conference USA bylaws state that members must give the conference 14 months' notice before departing. Marshall, Old Dominion and Southern Miss announced their departures to the Sun Belt in October.

Six other schools -- UTSA, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, UAB and Charlotte -- plan to leave Conference USA for the American Athletic Conference, where they will begin play in the fall of 2023. Conference USA will add four new members -- Liberty, New Mexico State, Sam Houston State and Jacksonville State -- in 2023.

In the current schedule, each school will play every team in its division once, with two crossover opponents. Marshall and ODU are both in the East Division, while Southern Miss is in the West. The 2022 Conference USA championship game, which features the winners of the East and West divisions, is scheduled for Dec. 3.